Statement of Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly, at the Opening Session of the 2nd STI Forum for SDGs
15 May 2017
Tomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General, UN DESA,
H.E. Ambassador Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya,
Dr. Vaughan Turekian, Science and Technology Adviser to the US Secretary of State,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I have just returned to New York from a trip to Africa, where I experienced first hand the power and impact of innovation and technology. Visionary political leaders, young entrepreneurs and big sections of the population are embracing the opportunities that new technologies are giving them to move rapidly ahead.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
Within our lifetimes we have all seen how rapid advances in science, technology and innovation have changed the ways people live, work, and communicate.
Increasingly, such transformation is taking place on a global scale.
Across the world, smart mobile devices are being used to provide banking services to people without bank accounts; to diagnose medical disorders and to remotely manage chronic illness care.
We are seeing solar energy being used to power flood early-warning systems in low-lying areas.
We are seeing pattern recognition being used to track marine-life migration and population levels to combat illegal fishing.
The transformative power of science, innovation and technology is abundantly clear. Thus it is that we – the international community – must take the necessary steps to ensure that the potential inherent in exponential technological innovations is unlocked to our advantage. Properly done, and these steps will take us to the solutions required to drive achievement of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
We will have to begin by, firstly, doing more to address unequal access to innovation and technology and increase connectivity, especially in Africa.
Secondly, we must do more to establish the strategic partnerships necessary to drive the scaled-up and inclusive action that is needed.
Thirdly, we must do more to broaden participation in science, technology and innovation by women.
And finally, we must do more to understand and manage the social, political, economic, ethical, security and human rights risks associated with advances in innovation and technology.
This includes protecting our systems against mass-scale malicious cyber-attacks of the kind we saw across the world just last week. We will also have to address privacy concerns relating to the collection, retention and distribution of personal data. And the potential impacts on our workforces through automation replacing industrial jobs will have to be carefully managed. We cannot all be employed polishing robots.
In all of this, the STI Forum has a critical role to play that is both explanative and constructive. We must build on the foundations laid by last year’s inaugural STI Forum. If we build well, the Forum has the potential of becoming the pre-eminent global platform to bring together key stakeholders to facilitate dialogue, bridge understanding, scale-up cooperation, and galvanize concrete and coordinated action to support implementation of the SDGs through the power of innovation and technology.
With focus on generating scientific solutions, promoting policy discourse, facilitating matchmaking, promoting capacity building, and boosting technology transfer, the STI Forum can achieve the full role envisaged for it.
In this regard, the General Assembly’s decision last December to establish a Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries was an important step forward.
However, to function effectively, the Technology Bank, and the Technology Facility Mechanism are in need of increased financial resources, and I encourage all Member States to finds ways to increase their support.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
To complement and give a post-Forum boost to the discussions that will take place over the next two days, I will be convening an SDG Action Event on Innovation and Connectivity on Wednesday this week.
The event will allow Member States, UN leaders, civil society and others to engage directly with leading innovators and CEOs to explore ways to harness the power of technology to drive SDG implementation. At the event, we will focus on how to increase connectivity and help solve the implementation challenges we face. We will showcase innovative approaches and discuss the risks and opportunities for the public good that innovation offers.
I encourage you all to attend and participate actively in this event.
I also encourage you to engage in The Ocean Conference, which will take place exactly three weeks from now. Scientific and technological innovation has within the last few years given us much clearer insight into the problems the Ocean is facing as a result of accumulated human activity. We look to technology to provide the solutions required to solve these problems.
The Conference is the only universal forum dedicated to mobilizing the global efforts necessary to reverse the cycle of decline in which the health of the Ocean is currently caught. It will do so by supporting the faithful implementation of SDG14 – the Ocean goal.
The Conference will be held here at the UN from 5 to 9 June, and will bring together representatives from around the world.
Among the key outcomes of the conference will be a registry of voluntary commitments that will serve as a work plan going forward to conserve life in the Ocean. I urge all of you to ensure your countries and organizations participate at the Conference at the highest possible levels, and that you wait no further to register voluntary commitments on the website of The Ocean Conference. I am encouraging you to bring science, technology and innovation to the deliberations of The Ocean Conference.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Advances in science, technology and innovation have already made our common destinies so much more closely interconnected.
I urge the Forum to stay ahead of the game, so that we can look to it as a touchstone in our universal effort to implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
I thank you for your attention.